MEDIA RELEASE 19 February 2021
Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS)

Important Step Towards Justice for Tanya Day

What happened to Tanya Day was a tragedy. That tragedy has been compounded because the Day family have had to fight for justice for so long. Their perseverance and courage are remarkable.

The Victorian Government today passed a Bill that decriminalises public drunkenness. The enormous advocacy work done by the Day family has been the key factor that led to this achievement. VALS thanks the Victorian Government and the Victorian Parliament for passing this Bill. It is a small step on the way to justice for Tanya Day.

It is 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended this reform. Victoria is one of the last jurisdictions in Australia to implement this recommendation. Many Aboriginal people have died in custody while we wait for governments to implement all the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

The reform will require significant public health initiatives to be implemented to make it successful. VALS will fight to ensure the Victorian Government includes Aboriginal people in the consultation process for these public health initiatives, particularly the families of loved ones who have died in custody.

We again ask the Victorian Government to properly fund Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to help with the proper implementation and oversight of these reforms. They should also properly fund ACCOs to address the over policing of Aboriginal people due to the increased powers given to the police during the pandemic.

True Justice for Tanya Day requires accountability. However, the Office of Public Prosecutions made the decision to not proceed with charges against the officers involved in Tanya Day’s death.

The Victorian Government has also not delivered on crucial reforms to increase accountability for those responsible for the lives of people held in custody. This includes implementing OPCAT, in accordance with its obligation to set up detention oversight bodies to prevent the torture and ill-treatment of detained people (including people detained in police vehicles).

Quotes Attributable to Nerita Waight, CEO of Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

“The strength of Tanya Day’s family gives me hope. There is still a long way to go until there is real justice for Tanya Day, but we have come this far because of them.”

“The Victorian Government deserves credit for finally decriminalising public drunkenness, but there is still a lot of work to do and they must not rest on their laurels. Aboriginal people will continue to die in custody if these reforms are not properly implemented.”

“We also need the Victorian Government to proceed with a more ambitious reform agenda that brings greater accountability to policing and the carceral system.”

“We hope the Victorian Government stops wasting money on prison cells and starts spending it on empowering Aboriginal communities.”

Media inquiries

Patrick Cook
Senior Communications and Media Officer
pcook@vals.org.au
0417 003 910